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November 13, 2012

Worries over billboards in Peabody persist

PEABODY — And the city of Peabody said, “Give us a sign.”

As to what’s going to be on the sign — you’ll have to take that on faith.

That’s the conclusion as the city has begun to approve roadside billboards in the wake of a zoning change that many hope will provide more control over where the big signs go and how obtrusive they are.

Two Route 1 billboards were approved at Thursday’s City Council meeting, including one on the southbound lane at the jughandle and the other farther up the road on the northbound side and described as being visible from Interstate 95. Both are said to be “static” billboards, meaning they aren’t electronic, so the images don’t change and are merely illuminated with spotlights.

Councilor Barry Sinewitz seemed uneasy with the decision, and he mostly worried over the content of these billboards.

“Shouldn’t the city know what’s going up there?” he asked. “I don’t really care what’s going up on these signs. But the city has the right to know.”

Sinewitz points to a crude sign that was erected temporarily at the Route 1 Cabaret strip club as part of the making of the Adam Sandler movie “That’s My Boy.”

Sinewitz suggested that sign companies ought to disclose the content of billboards prior to installing them.

“I make a motion that when they’re going to the building inspector to sign off that you tell us what’s going on that sign,” he told David Ankeles, the lawyer for Mansfield Outdoor Advertising Corp., which was seeking special permits for the two signs. “The building inspector should know.”

“I’m not sure I agree with that,” Ankeles replied.

Council President Jim Liacos said that the zoning change had already been debated and voted on and that Sinewitz’s motion seemed to ask for a change in the nature of the special permit. “You will have to do it outside this process.” As to the principle of disclosing what’s going up on the sign, he told Sinewitz, “I don’t necessarily disagree with you.”

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